Engaging in Historical Thinking

History has too often been boiled down to boring names, facts, and dates... this is what history is to a lot of people. Lectures rely too heavily on auditory input and make students passive as opposed to active learners. Students memorize dates and names but soon forget everything once the test is over. How can a teacher get their students to engage in historical thinking?

Tap into Students Curiosity

Consider beginning your lecture with an interactive encounter. Present them with a puzzle with powerful visual images and sounds to be solved.

In the SMALLab Storyline Scenario, hovering your magnifying glass over an image enlarges it for the class to see while playing music or a recording associated with it. See how Blue Ridge School in Georgia uses SMALLab to put history in order!

Historians often see themselves as detectives, unsure about what happened and what it means. Historians also don't always agree. Have your students work together to decide what the order is. " What is this president known for in history?" "Why was this event so important in history?" It's hard to fall asleep when students are up out of their seats pointing to pictures, talking with each other and collaboratively sorting out a giant puzzle.

Use of Processing Strategies

Give your students time to review, interact with the content and with each other. Have the students break into teams and formulate questions about the ideas to help them process the information.

Challenge your students and have them create their own presentation with their own images and recorded sounds that could be in the form of historical music or a quote they record themselves. The challenging team could chose one open-ended question that needs to be answered and solved by the clues provided. Why do they believe things happened in that order? What are the the clues that gave them the answer?

Build on the Discussion

Questions build on other questions and answers build on other answers. Take your discussion the the next level with the tension bar in the Storyline Scenario. Ask the students to raise Democrats north and lower Republicans south. Then discuss where the Federalists, Democratic-Republicans and Whigs stood in between and why. Did they lean more towards Democratic beliefs or Republican?  What quote or clue tells them this?

Present a modern day political issue and ask where a president would have sided - for or against, and to what degree!

Even if history is not a favorite subject, engaging your students with interactive lessons can help them understand ideas you are imparting while building on their critical thinking and investigative skills!